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Crowd gathers in Lake Oswego to witness the dismantling of AR-15
Weapon that the Rev. Jeremy Lucas won in a softball team raffle is cut into pieces and transformed into garden tools
A small group of parishioners gathered under canopies pitched in the Christ Church Episcopal Parish parking lot in Lake Oswego on Friday to watch "the destruction of a weapon" and to pray "for an end to violence, for peace on Earth."
With scripture, songs and prayers, the group witnessed the dismantling of the AR-15 rifle that the Rev. Jeremy Lucas had won earlier this year in a raffle sponsored by a Gresham softball team. On hand to help destroy the weapon was Mike Martin from RAWtools, a Colorado Springs-based Christian organization that repurposes weapons into hand tools.
Using a circular saw with a special blade, Martin and Lucas cut the weapon into several pieces and then forged the pieces into garden implements.
"We've destroyed dozens of guns or parts of guns," Martin said. "Some people have willingly given up their guns; some are confiscated by police. But 90–plus percent of the guns we disable are donated by individuals."
An Anabaptist, Martin said it has been his ministry to disable weapons for the past four years, starting soon after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. A lone gunman killed his own mother and then shot and killed 20 Sandy Hook students (all 6 or 7 years old) and six teachers before committing suicide. One of the three firearms the shooter used in the attack was an AR-15.
"We take harmful weapons and turn them into positives," Martin said. "Our prayers become actions."
For most of the crowd, it was the first time actually seeing an AR-15 up close.
"I've never seen one before," said Susie Coffman, Christ Church's director of Christian education. "It made me very uncomfortable, even though I knew it wasn't loaded and that we were seeing it being cut into pieces."
In July, Lucas spent $3,000 from a church discretionary fund and member donations to buy 150 raffle tickets in the District 2 Big League Softball Team raffle, which offered the AR-15 rifle as a prize. At the time, he said he had two goals: to help the girls team get to a California tournament, and to take the weapon out of circulation.
Lucas won, and he told The Review at the time that he planned to transform the assault rifle into a piece or pieces of art.
"It's a small, symbolic act," he said in July. "There are millions of guns, I know that. But this gun will never be used to kill kids in schools, kill people in a movie theater, kill people at an office party or at any other place of mass shootings. This gun will never be found by a child who accidently shoots a friend. ... It will never be stolen and used to commit a crime or used to threaten a family in a domestic violence situation.
"If I had the chance for $3,000 to keep any of these things from happening — even one time — I'd do it again in a second," he said.
Lucas's handling of the AR-15 after the raffle nearly got him into legal trouble when it was reported that he transferred possession of the weapon to a parishioner for safe-keeping, possibly in violation of a state gun law enacted in 2015. But after an investigation by the Oregon State Police, the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove that a crime had been committed and announced that no charges would be filed.
Lucas told The Review on Friday that he will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to participate in the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, an interfaith vigil taking place Dec. 14 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.
While he's there, Lucas said, he will present one of Martin's garden tools to Newtown residents.
Since the shooting in 2012, an estimated 120,000 people have died from gunfire in the United States and another 300,000 have been wounded, sponsors of the vigil say. St. Mark's — along with the Newtown Foundation, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Organizing for Action — is bringing families of victims and survivors of gun violence from Newtown and around the country to Washington, D.C., for the vigil.
"This isn't about politics," Lucas said. "It's an expression of faith. There needs to be less violence, more peace and love. It's a symbolic gesture. We need to keep working on this. We will make a difference."
Christ Church Episcopal Church will hold a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath in Lake Oswego at 10 a.m. on Dec. 18. All are welcome to attend the service at the church, which is located at 1060 Chandler Road.